The endogenous opioid system in cocaine addiction: what lessons have opioid peptide and receptor knockout mice taught us?
Cocaine addiction has become a major concern in the UK as Britain tops the European 'league table' for cocaine abuse. Despite its devastating health and socio-economic consequences, no effective pharmacotherapy for treating cocaine addiction is available. Identifying neurochemical changes induced by repeated drug exposure is critical not only for understanding the transition from recreational drug use towards compulsive drug abuse but also for the development of novel targets for the treatment of the disease and especially for relapse prevention. This article focuses on the effects of chronic cocaine exposure and withdrawal on each of the endogenous opioid peptides and receptors in rodent models. In addition, we review the studies that utilized opioid peptide or receptor knockout mice in order to identify and/or clarify the role of different components of the opioid system in cocaine-addictive behaviours and in cocaine-induced alterations of brain neurochemistry. The review of these studies indicates a region-specific activation of the µ-opioid receptor system following chronic cocaine exposure, which may contribute towards the rewarding effect of the drug and possibly towards cocaine craving during withdrawal followed by relapse. Cocaine also causes a region-specific activation of the κ-opioid receptor/dynorphin system, which may antagonize the rewarding effect of the drug, and at the same time, contribute to the stress-inducing properties of the drug and the triggering of relapse. These conclusions have important implications for the development of effective pharmacotherapy for the treatment of cocaine addiction and the prevention of relapse.
Division of Biochemistry, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK.
SourceBritish journal of pharmacology 166:7 2012 Aug pg 1993-2014
Pub Type(s)Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't